far too much writing, far too many photos

Tonight and tomorrow mark the end of the holiday season in this part of the world with the arrival of the Three Kings (traditionally the local version of Santa Claus, when kids get most of their presents) and the last round of big family meals. The barrio has remained quieter than its normal self, more relaxed, and now that the two big holiday weekends have come and gone, the partying has become a bit less frantic, less people about in the wee hours. More user-friendly for those of us who adore a good night’s sleep.

When I stumbled outside this morning for the daily espresso/croissant, I managed to get my hands on a decent cup of caffeine. All croissants, however, had vanished, from every joint I poked my adorable nose into, replaced by roscones — a kind of circular sweetbread, heavily sprinkled with slivered almonds and sugar, maybe some jellied fruits (often cut across the middle and filled with whipped cream). They seemed to be everywhere I looked today, brightening up shop windows, filling most shelves and counter space in many places that sell baked goods. Pretty, actually. People wished each other a good visit from los Reyes Magos, merchants I bought groceries from wished me the same. I have a feeling a visit to my humble dive is not on the Kings’ itinerary.

This evening, the Three Kings arrive in the form of a parade that passes through the city center — highly commercial, most of the floats representing big business entities or government divisions (as I remember, last year’s had two or three elaborately ugly floats flogging Shrek 2). A strange event, one I think I’ll skip this year.

Instead, I’ll be good and show up at Spanish class, maybe catch some holiday sunshine beforehand and check out a big sprawling craft fair arrayed along one side of a major avenue on the center’s east side.

In fact, an outing sounds like a fine idea. So I’m off.

Later.

ADDENDUM, post-parade: The language academy currently putting up with me is located on la Calle de Montera (known to some local wags as la Calle de las Putas, due to the strange display of young prostitutes arrayed along a one-block section of the street and tolerated by the police), a narrow, heavily-traveled cobblestone lane that extends away from Gran Vía toward Sol, the actual center point of the city, Madrid’s version of Times Square.

The parade of the Three Kings, et al. passed through Sol, about a block from the school. Our classroom looks out on a quiet sidestreet, I could hear the crowd in Sol as I walked into the classroom and sat myself down. Class progressed, the parade reached Sol, the noise level swelled, at times intruding on the educational activity in a way difficult to ignore.

An important aspect of the parade: the tossing of candy into the crowd from the floats. Big handfuls of wrapped hard-candies, thrown by as many float personnel as feel like hurling them, the sweets sailing through the nighttime air toward the massed spectators, who respond loudly, surging in all directions, trying to catch whatever they can. It’s quite a scene.

There were times when the roaring and the energy from the event, a block away, reached an intensity that stopped activity in our classroom, the three of us pausing to listen, eyes wide, smiles on our faces. The kind of intensity that would greet Elvis if he returned from, er, wherever it is he’s been and did a free concert in the center of a large city, tossing money into the crowd as he pranced and gyrated.

The din continued for about an hour, until the parade had passed through Sol and moved on toward its destination, la Plaza Mayor. At which time the roaring of thousands of people simply stopped. As if a switch had been flipped. And the quiet of a January evening returned. The kind of abrupt shift that produces a loud variety of silence, the kind in which you can hear your heart beating.

This life of ours — it’s a never-ending extravaganza of amazing experiences.

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An often-overlooked corner of la Plaza de Colón, Madrid, at the intersection of el Paseo de la Castellana and la Calle de Génova (statue: ‘Reclining woman’ by Fernando Botero — yes, I know she’s actually prone, not reclining), today — weather mild, January sun shining:

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Nothing to do with Madrid: interesting images seen in Texas during the course of Dave Winer’s drive from Seattle to Florida.

Madrid, te quiero

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